Former All Blacks backrower Liam Messam has sung the praises of All Black Sam Cane, ahead of the 28-year-olds first test as permanent captain of the national side.

Messam played with Cane at the Chiefs where they won back-to-back Super Rugby titles together in 2012 and 2013, and also won a World Cup alongside each other a few years later in England.

Writing in his column on The XV, a long-form rugby content website, Messam looks back on what it was like training alongside the then 19-year-old, and how he felt that Cane has “long been destined” to lead the All Blacks. In ‘Destiny’s Child’, Messam wrote: “When Sam Cane first wandered into Chiefs training about a decade ago, I was blown away at the size of him.

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“Here was a teenager, built like a fully grown man and putting plenty of the Chiefs boys to shame.

“Although Sammy an absolute man-child when he first arrived – still just a teenager but with the frame of a professional player 10 years his senior, I was still impressed with how he went about his work. He wasn’t overwhelmed training alongside Super Rugby legends like Mils Muliaina, Tana Umaga and Tanerau Latimer, he just got stuck in.”

Cane’s first start for the Chiefs against the Crusaders in Napier in 2011, a game that pitted the then up-and-comer against one of the best to have ever played the position in Richie McCaw, is a match which stands out to Messam.

During that game and since, Messam said that he’s been impressed with Cane’s knack for doing the dirty work that doesn’t always make it to the highlight reel. In particular, his brutality in defence has stood out.

“Every time a kid asks me about tackle technique, I just tell them to go watch Sam Cane. That man has got the best tackle technique I’ve ever seen.

“When he hits you, he hits you. It may not look big on TV or for the crowd, but not many people get even half a metre on him.

“Thankfully, I’ve never had to play against the guy.”

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But another great trait of Cane’s that’s earned him rightful praise throughout his career is his unquestionable leadership qualities.

Cane captained the All Blacks for the first time at the 2015 Rugby World Cup against Namibia at just 23-years-old, and always looked destined to lead the team again later in his career.

“He’s the leader that the boys will get behind and follow, so I wasn’t surprised at all when Ian Foster named him All Blacks captain. I knew the potential that he had, and that he’d already shown from a young age.

“He’s always had that presence about himself as a leader and his presence on the field is always increasing.

“He’s a great motivator, he’ll get people to run through a brick wall – and he’s also good at building relationships with referees, which is obviously important. He always asks the right questions and he’s pretty under pressure.

“I think with Sammy, the All Blacks will have the best of both worlds. I’ve got no doubt that when he runs out there as the permanent captain for the first time, he’s going to do an awesome job.”

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